Author: Charlie Hughes, Sacred Ground Reflections

Hi, I’m Charlie Hughes and my wife is Judy. We’re following Ardell who spoke last week in following up on our recent participation in “Sacred Ground.” Judy and I eagerly signed up for the educational opportunity offered by Sacred Ground mainly because we wanted to increase our knowledge about Social and Racial Justice in our country. This was a topic that we both already felt somewhat knowledgeable about — with, in recent years, both of us having become more deeply interested in and concerned about.

As a child, I attended a private elementary school, one of the few integrated such schools in Norfolk, VA where I grew up. Our daughter, Jenny, married a Black man, so, as you know, some of our grandchildren are mixed-race – gives us a totally different perspective. Our family ancestry, like many others, includes both enslaved and enslavers. At our last church, Judy and I started a Social Justice Learning Group to both grow and share our knowledge. My entire adult working life was in federal Human Resources, and Judy also worked in HR for a large corporation. So, we were always professionally involved in concepts like Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, adverse impact, inherent bias, inclusion, diversity, and all the similar federal efforts at achieving equity. Judy served for a while as an EEO Director. Through most of our working years, like most people, we figured it was only a matter of time before such efforts would be “successful” in the sense that they wouldn’t be needed any longer– our country would have achieved racial equity. Alas, we were wrong.

In more recent years, we’ve heard and studied more about “systemic racism.” Considering how old we are (and what we thought were generally enlightened backgrounds AND outlooks), its only relatively recently that we truly appreciated its devastating effects. Not just on African-Americans, but lots of other discriminated groups, many of which were highlighted in Sacred Ground sessions. I know I startled myself one day just a couple years ago when I was able to articulate to others my realization that even IF the last confirmed racist in our country died (a happy day to be sure) and IF every system and process that governs our lives magically became race (and ethnicity)-blind, that the lingering and very real mechanisms and effects of past racism and social injustice would remain – continuing to perpetuate disparate and unfair outcomes.

Unfortunately, as I also realized, and which was made even more clear in the Sacred Ground curriculum, much of this lingering effect is due to very deliberate efforts made in our country to hide, dissemble, rationalize, and “paper over” our actual history.

So many of our Sacred Ground group discussions elicited a common reaction – “Gee, how come I didn’t learn about that in history classes?” Discussing the selected readings and videos openly with other participants consistently brought us new insights – how past actions (and inactions) have effects even today – not only for African-Americans, but also for Native Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, and many other marginalized groups.

Judy & I believe the Sacred Ground curriculum would hold value for anyone, wherever they might be on their own enlightenment journey. We hope others at Peace will consider joining or forming a group. Beyond the time commitment required to absorb the materials, participation requires self-examination and self-disclosure, not always comfortable, but well worthwhile we found.